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Chrysler International

Chrysler International S.A., a Swiss company in Geneva, was formed in 1958, growing out of Chrysler Corporation’s former Export Division. Wholly owned by Chrysler Corporation, Chrysler International’s board of directors included five Swiss citizens, one Frenchman, and three Americans. The head of the company according to 1964-66 annual reports was A.H. Cole, who reported to the International Operations Group’s I.J. Minett.

knockdown plant

The company was created to administer the distribution, assembly, and manufacture of Chrysler products in all markets outside the United States and Canada. These included the full range of cars, from Simca to Imperial, trucks including Dodge, Fargo, and Kew, and Chrysler's other products (Airtemp air conditioning, heating and cooling equipment, marine and industrial engines).

Canadian Valiant bound for the UK

Chrysler International was supplied by the Export-Import Division of Chrysler Corporation, which "supplies plants outside the U.S. and Canada with components for U.S. type vehicles as well as technical services" and imported Simca and Rootes products into the United States. (Chrysler gained a majority share of Rootes in 1967 and had 77% of Simca in 1966).

In 1960, Chrysler International sales hit 81,470; in 1961, they were 70,886 (excluding Simcas and vehicles shipped to North America). This included some 50,394 units imported from the United States, the largest number of such imports since 1957. Chrysler International also sold Simcas in some markets, to maintain a full line of vehicles.

hans ensing

From 1959 to 1963, Chrysler International increased dealers in the UK from 150 to 223; increased Chrysler Australia’s coverage by going from large distributors in each state to direct dealers, ending up with 377 outlets; and increased South African coverage from 46 to 86 outlets.

As of 1963, Chrysler International facilities were:

Two regional sales offices were established in London, England (serving Europe, Africa, Australia-New Zealand, and Asia), and in Panama City, Panama (serving the Caribbean and Central and South America; this would later be closed.) Their activities were directed from Geneva, which gained a business management department in 1963.

Chrysler International steadily increased sales of both automotive and diversified products in the world market. The company wrote,

Chrysler International's objective is to supply the world automotive market with products that suit the needs and demands of each individual country. It is also Chrysler International's aim to market its products at competitive prices and make a reasonable profit for Chrysler distributors and dealers as well as for Chrysler International.

Simca was not part of Chrysler International; thus, in 1966, when Chrysler claimed 406,978 sales outside the US and Canada, more than half (279,461) of those sales were Simca, and the remaining 138,750 were Chrysler International. (The numbers do not add up, but these are the numbers noted in the annual report.) At that point, Chrysler claimed over 1,700 distributors and dealers; assembly and manufacturing facilities in 12 countries; and a staff of 28,000 people. Expansion projects were under way in Canada, France, Australia, Venezuela, Colombia, Turkey, and South Africa, and the acquisition of both Simca (France) and Rootes (UK) were in progress, with Mitsubishi (Japan) eventually being added to the mix.

In 1966, Australia was by far the largest share of the international market, with 54,363 sales — far larger than South Africa’s respectable 15,723 units. Valiant was the best seller in South Africa at that time. Dodge trucks were sold in Argentina, Colombia, Mexico, The Netherlands, Peru, the Philippines, South Africa, Turkey, and Venezuela. Fargo made its appearance in some of those nations, as well; with DeSoto being sold only in Turkey. The British Kew trucks were sold in Australia, the Netherlands, Peru, the Philippines, South Africa, Turkey, and the UK; Commer and Karrier trucks were sold in some of those countries as well as Rhodesia and Venezuela.

Sales rose substantially in 1968, bumping up to 713,267 vehicles outside North America. In 1969, sales hit 734,041 vehicles. Simca had hit a record 353,945 vehicles, 12% over 1968; Chrysler Australia hit a record of 72,373 vehicles, with market penetration at a 53-year high. Record sales were achieved in South Africa, Argentina, Colombia, Peru, Venezuela, and by Automex in Mexico. Nearly 200,000 vehicles were produced in Britain; over 44,000 in Spain. Rootes made just 167,344 vehicles, considerably less than the 1966 and 1967 totals.

(The trail runs cold after 1969. Chrysler International appears in the annual report for 1969; by 1976 they are not mentioned. We will research this further.)

In 1976, Chrysler had $1.7 billion in European assets, $268 million in African and Asian assets, and $635 million in Latin American assets. Their total net assets outside the U.S. and Canada totalled $916.5 million. Chrysler sold 985,267 vehicles outside its core markets in 1976, well over double its 1966 rate. Most of those sales were in Europe, largely due to Simca and Rootes.

The companies outside the US and Canada earned a net profit of $91 million (after losing $47 million in 1975). The main problem with the operations was Rootes Group — which lost $81 million in 1976 alone (the U.K. government actually granted most of that loss to Chrysler to keep Rootes operational).

Also see details on Chrysler’s operations in various countries and regions outside the United States

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